Kim Lowenthal passed away last week. He left a wife, Cheryl, and a son, Jacob. He also left behind an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of just about everyone he came in contact with.
If you knew Kim, this may well be the very first (and probably the only) time the mere mention of his name doesn’t bring a smile to your face. If you didn’t know him, you missed out on a unique and very special experience. And those of us who did would like to tell you a little about him…
Kim was truly one-of-a-kind. I don’t think there ever was, or ever will be, another like him. (The far-flung galaxy he came from only sent us one.) Maryann Posten describes him as “an original” who just had a way of looking at things very differently than anyone else.
Kim worked at ALC for almost 20 years from 1991 to 2010. He was one of our first big-time list brokers, controlling a huge portfolio of clients (at one point, more than $3 million in Net Revenue) and eventually became a partner in the company.
Kim was big—in stature, and in presence. If he was in the office—anywhere in the office—everyone would know it. It wasn’t that he was loud; he wasn’t. But somehow his presence permeated doors and walls. (As a matter of fact, he never saw a closed-door meeting he didn’t think he was welcome to join, invited or not.)
And Kim was smart. It would not be an exaggeration to say he was a data savant. As Susan Rudy puts it, “When it came to reading and interpreting campaign results, Kim was one of the brightest people I ever knew. He could look at an excel spreadsheet and within seconds would spot a missed opportunity or find a computational error if there was one.”
The funny thing is, Kim never took notes. (Truth be told, he really couldn’t write. Seriously. I mean he could make some scratches with a pen on paper. But no one—not even Kim himself—could decipher them.) And he had little use for computers. That’s not to say he didn’t take advantage of computer reports—he studied them scrupulously—he just preferred Susan or Colleen or Lisa or whoever to run them and drop them on his desk.
Kathy Witwer, one of ALC’s earliest employees, who also became a partner, agrees. “Kim was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. His conversations were challenging,” she says, “but once filtered and translated, there was always a pearl of wisdom to be gleaned.”
Kim was fiercely dedicated to his clients. Sue remembers him “always walking around saying ‘My clients hate me.’ Of course, we all knew his clients loved him, but I believe he said that so as not to allow himself to ever become complacent or cut corners. He respected his clients and always worked hard to deliver the very best to them.” Pat Stecher remembers Kim strolling down the halls at the farm house, singing (just loud enough for the people close by to hear) his Citibank song (Citibank was one of his major clients), which had only one word: Citibank…Citibank…Citibank…Citbank…”
Kim was generous. In the years I knew him, I bet he made and lost what most people would consider a fortune 3 or 4 times. But it didn’t matter whether he was up or down. He was always shelling out money for someone. Beth Schreiber tells a story of how Kim used to “rent” data for his friends and ask that the bill be sent to him, not them. “Then, every few days he’d come into the Credit dept. and empty his pockets of whatever he had in them to put towards the bill. Some days it was change. Some days it was a wad of bills. I think he enjoyed our little dance as much as I did,” she says.
And, of course, Kim was quirky. In fact, that’s his picture under the dictionary definition of “quirky.” According to Beth, “His quirky habits are a big part of what made Kim special and me smile with every interaction I had with him.”
Wearing real clothes was usually too much for him to handle. His daily uniform was sweatpants and a flannel shirt—or in warm weather, a wrinkled t-shirt. Maryann says, “He loved to rock the sweatpants, no matter what the occasion. That’s how I will remember him.”
Rob Bennington says he learned a valuable lesson from Kim. “Personally, my interactions with Kim taught me to never judge a book by its cover. Because the great ones always tend to march to the beat of their own drum, which—bottom-line—may be the reason they are great.”
Rob describes his first encounter with Kim: When I was new to ALC, I remember seeing this guy, climbing out of this expensive car, smoking a cigar and putting it out in the trash can—a half- inch of scruff on his face—walking into the building in sweat pants and tee shirt. When I asked who that was, someone said, ‘Oh, that’s Kim.’ I remember asking, ‘Does he work here?’ and being told that, in fact, he is one of the most successful brokers in the industry. To be honest, I thought they were pulling my leg, but each person I spoke to said the same thing. I saw first-hand how he used to drive some people crazy. I think it was because—just as with his clients—he knew exactly which buttons to push to get the results / impact he wanted.
Pat describes how she once stumbled upon a filing draw he had converted into his own private humidor. “But he was always willing to share,” she says. “If you wanted a cigar, all you’d have to do is ask him. He’d give the most expensive one he had, if you wanted it—and were willing to smoke it with him.”
Michelle Hanover says that despite Kim’s quirkiness, she has nothing but great respect for him. “Sure, he had his quirks, she says, “but he made work entertaining when he walked around in his sweatpants singing his Citibank song. And bottom-line, he was a deeply caring individual. I will always remember how no matter how stressful things might be, he’d comment, “at least you’re still smiling.”
Pat agrees. “I’m not sure he ever realized what an important role he played here at ALC…just putting smiles on so many faces. There was always a smile and laughter when Kim was in the room, no matter how serious the discussion may have started out, you could always count on Kim to make sure it would end on a funny note.”
Kathy summed it up for all of us, “Guess the best thing is that he still brings a smile to my face. Rest in peace, Kim. You are missed and we will remember you always.”
A long time ago—I don’t remember exactly when, we held an annual meeting in which our newest employees were asked to write poems about the ALC partners, comparing them to an animal. I thought you might like to read the one about Kim.